[Metal/Melodic Death] Arch Enemy – Will to Power (90%)

Finally, after a week in waiting….got my Arch Enemy pre-order by mail including a tee and a digital version of the album (including a poster and three stickers, yikes!).
So how does Arch Enemy’s latest album hold? How does Jeff Loomis brings in the band? Interesting to do this review a week ahead on the 10th anniversary of their album “Rise of The Tyrant”.
Well you have the choice: the short or the long comment. The short one? A damn good AE album! The long one? Gonna have to read it through. This is an album made of 13 tracks totaling 54 minutes.
We got introduced by “Set Flame To The Night”, an instrumental opener that for AE fans reminds us the intro of “Khaos Legion” album. “The Race” brings on the big guns and set the tone of the album: its gonna loud, fast and furious. You know something from the good old times when Angie was fronting, that stuff that raises your adrenaline serum levels and gives you to jump into a mosh.
“Blood In The Water” slows down a bit, bringing the classical Michael Amott melodics riffs backed by Jeff Loomis, some classic AE style as I love it :). The “World Is Yours” marks this blend of the old and the new (brought with “War Eternal”). The tunes are catchy, certainly a great one as flagship song for promotion but I am not much impressed. That can be a great primer to the band if you have not listened to the band before. Listen by yourself and judge:

The fifth track, “The Eagle Flies Alone” is slower in pace but it is like the melodic power ballad with Michael and Jeff bringing on the riffs. Thats what I like about AE, powerful melodic riffs with fast-paced brutality. AFE!

“Reason To Believe” is the one posing as a power ballad, imagine stretching the Michael’s interlude into half a song with Alissa bringing on her experience on clean voices from the Agonist on that one, distilled inside this song. Turn on your lighters on that one. Oh yeah!
The seventh track “Murder Scene” brings back the brutal AE, good stuff but not too impressive. That compared to the eight track, “First Day In Hell”, starting like “We Are A Goodless Entity” only to bring it the heavy, hammering tough lyrics.
“Saturnine”, the the 9th track is this very nice instrumental interlude that Michael used to serve to each album. Short but sweet gothic one. “Dreams of Retribution” starts with Michael melodics a la Yngwie Malmsteen only to bring us the power melodic riffs surfing on some tunes we grew accustomed in “War Eternal”. Damn good track! “My Shadow And I” is nice but yeah not really talking to me much. “A Fight I Must Win” is a nice one to listen, straight outta AE playbook. The last song is “City Baby Attacked By Rats” is a very nice cover of the original punk song from GBH. I am not into punk music, but the cover is pretty rad. The original below.

So here we are at the end of the album. What can I say? I got introduced to AE via “War Eternal” and went into their discography retrospectively. Paradoxically, listening to “War Eternal” sounded one of the weakest link of their album. But, there is a big but here. I consider “War Eternal” as a transition and may explain this weakness. “Will To Power” brings the good old AE, Alissa settled into the continuation of Angie but in the same type pushing the band to foray into new avenues like “Reason to Believe”, there is also this idea of reaching out by Michael, maybe as his experience in pushing his Spiritual Beggars project, with the cover of “City Baby…”.
Arch Enemy brings on the big guns, followed by the engaging melodic riffs, bringing you in this state of frenzy prime for some memorable moments in the mosh! Thats some AFE album you handle here!

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[Metal/Doom] Paradise Lost – Medusa (90%)

If you have been a long time follower, you surely have heard of the “Unholy Trinity” of doom (named after the record label) metaphorized under the UK doom metal bands Anathema, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost. All three started very dark and heavy doom, only to evolve into their own artistic direction. As Anathema went more into the alternative scene, so did I drifted away from them. Paradise Lost, in my opinion more into death metal shores. They were bringing on the dark lyrics and blended in with the rage of death metal.
Then Paradise Lost came in with their 15th album “Medusa” last Friday. I don’t know if listening to the album alongside watching the very dark and pessismitic ending of “Twin Peaks: The Return”, it really left on me a very good impression by its heaviness and darkness, a sort of a return to their roots.
Lets go through the album, that is a 10-track (I guess this is the iTunes version) and lasting 52 minutes. We got into it with “Fearless Sky”, a majestic introduction sounding like the prologue of a funeral mass, with the growls and lyrics of Nick Holmes. Mind blown by it. Just read an excerpt of the lyrics:
Life’s contempt, a life of trial to unrest, vilified/I resent, morbid times so oppressed, soul divine/Lies torment, as I try to confess to a fearless sky“. The second track, “Gods Of Ancient” continues into the doom and gloom, is another gem of the album. The third track, “From The Gallows” brings up Greg Mackintosh melodics more upfront and damn I like Greg’s guitar composition. The fourth track, “The Longest Winter” is my opinion the track that brings up the influence of sludge reported by some reviewers but also showcasing the ease of Nick to sing both cleans and growls. Judge by yourself here.
https://youtu.be/ufs-kLZFyjU

“Medusa” welcomes us with a opening piano followed by the melodics on the guitar by Greg and by Nick Holmes vocals. Languishing and dark. “Passage for the Dead” is in my opinion the second track with a clear sludge tone to it. “Blood And Chaos” sounds more the modern Paradise Lost, this is also my least favorite one. No big deal, but yeah not really fond of. You can make your opinion on it since there is a official video on it:

“Until The Grave” continues into this more modern sound of Paradise Lost. Nice but not transcending either.

As a iTunes special edition, we have two extra tracks. “Shrines” is also a very nice song also harboring this heavy sludge metal influence in it. “Symbolic Virtue” concludes this album by bringing on the old and the heavy doom.

As the band slowly reaches the 30th anniversary of their formation, Paradise Lost show us that pain, sorrow and sadness never heal. That like Sisyphus, we are set fate to perpetually keep the sorrow of those who we have lost, of those we have broke our hearts on. Having a band that can maintain and reconnect to its roots while in the same explore new avenues (like sludge in this one) is in both times soothing and exciting. Brace myself, September is coming with a damn fine selection of great albums.

[Metal/Symphonic Metal] Epica – The Solace System (EP)

September is coming. Back to school! Back to album reviews! A lot of albums are pointing their nose for this month: Paradise Lost, Arch Enemy…..
Epica just released their 6-track EP “The Solace System”, coinciding with the release of “The Holographic Principle” a year ago. As usual, Mark Jansen master craft almost every single Epica album, spoiling us like we would get spoiled on a Rembrandt painting.
The EP starts with “The Solace System”, straight outta of their previous album. Not much blabbering, just watch their official video:

We keep on the pace with “Fight Your Demons”, a track that feel so “The Holographic Principle” that for some reasons did not make the cut in the final iteration of the album. The third track “Architect Of Light”, in my opinion brings on the good old “The Quantum Enigma” in mind. The fourth track, “Wheel of Destiny” brings back on the nervous and fast-paced tunes. “Immortal Melancholy” comes in abruptly by its much more softening vibes. Purely acoustic, it is also worth to read the story behind this song (http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/epica-releases-video-for-immortal-melancholy/). Listen to it here below:

Finally, “Decoded Poetry” is the last track of the EP. Nice but not really my favorite. If you really liked “The Holographic Principle”, you should get this EP it is a kind of a nice addition to it. I wish however that such songs were included de facto in their previous album, in place of their acoustic cover that was in iTunes.

[Metal] Headbang local! Some hometown local metal albums I bought

Following my attendance of the scientific meeting in Paris, I headed back to my hometown (Strasbourg, France) for 48 hours before heading back in the US, taking advantage of an upcoming weekend to see my family.
I also took advantage for some shopping (in addition of the traditional gift shopping and souvenirs) to support the local record store (l’okaz de l’uncle Tom), one of the oldest and most favorite record store in town (that was my first experience going downtown with my brother when I was 10-11, bought my first AC/DC and ZZtop tapes from them). One of the niceties of the store is their decent selection of metal albums but what I really liked was their shelf dedicated for the local and national metal scene.
If you are a stoner, you may have heard about “Bull Terrier” that is a local stoner doom band. Not really much into stoner so I skipped it. But I found some interesting nuggets in my disc hunting.
The first was “Darkest Hours” from Khaelys, a local symphonic metal band original fronted by Kenza Rafi. This was their first of their two albums, released in 2009. I really liked it, probably because of the gothic atmosphere and the very simple but enjoying sound, not drowned over keyboards and studio processing. Although Kenza’s vocals were not the level of a mezzo-soprano, her voice remembered me a lot of the one from Jamie-Lee Smit (Azylya). Sad to also discover that the band disbanded in 2015, according to their Facebook page.

pochette_darkest_hours

The second album I purchased was “Unleash Your Wrath” by Bloody Pride, a melodic death metal band. I am not a big fan of death metal, but I enjoy some good melodic death metal from time to time. Nice album, nice tunes. The band has apparently a Bandcamp site, you should give them a try if you are looking for good French melodic death bands.
a0691128043_10

Finally, the last album was rather a compilation playing on the word “Elsass” (the name of the region as cited in the local German dialect) morphed into “Hell’s Ass”. It’s an old compilation (2005), so I assume most of the bands have likely disbanded or went into a hiatus. It is a bit of a hodge-podge of different artists and different genres, a sort of melting pot that give you a glimpse on how the local scene was vibrant back then. I wonder how the scene stands right now.

 

[Music/Gothic Metal] Seven Spires – Solveig (80%)

Fresh from the press, a band that came out of nowhere in my disc library: Seven Spires, a FFM band from Boston, Massachusetts. Their first album “Solveig” was released this Friday and of course it ends up being reviewed by me. I have been listening several times, interrupted by the livestream of “Wacken Open Air 2017” (thats very nice from the organizers to have a livestream of the main line-up).
This is a 15-track album, lasting 75 minutes. iTunes classified it as death metal/black metal and fairly I disagree with it. Because this album does not fit in one category. It is definitely metal but explores different facets with some gothic, some symphonic, some even sounding like some black symphonic a la “Dimmu Borgir”. So yes, it is a very schizophrenic album but it also a kind of a good showcase for Adrienne Cowan, allowing her to hear her vocal range from clean to growls.
We get into “The Siren” an introduction that really sounds like a Danny Elfman track, you know something like straight from a gothic ambience of a “Nightmare Before Christmas”. It seamlessly brings to “Encounter” blending this Elfman tunes with heavy riffs. Good stuff, really gives you a good grip on the ride. Some fresh air, it has a been a while we did not hear a good gothic metal band and Seven Spires is kind of baiting with that appeal. Then we move to “The Siren (Reprise)” that rather sounds like a revisited opening sequence for “Encounter”. I found it odd to have right in the third track, I would have put as a bonus track. The fourth “Cabaret of Dreams”, sounds a bit more rock giving this kind of abruptness in the ride. Certainly not my favorite. “Choices” sets the train back on its track, brining on some symphonic elements with a heavier tone. A very engaging song that should have been in my opinion right after “Encounter”. “Closure” continues into this very enjoying emotional riding experience, with a slower tone supported by orchestral arrangements and maybe an annoying presence of the bass guitar. Thats one thing I noted, the presence of the bass was too much accentuated in this album. I know the bass player has bad rep but the bass is part of the background unless you are Iron Maiden or Lemmy Kilmister. “100 days” is this nice melodic ballad giving a nice interlude in the album, right in the middle of the album. “Stay” brings us a power melodic tone that is very engaging, a good one. “The Paradox” brings us for the first time Adrienne on the growls into this track that brings on the excitement of a symphonic black metal straight out of a good “Dimmu Borgir” album. You know this kind of track that put your auditive and limbic cortices into fritz, with this rush of dopamine that wants to mosh into your living room by this brutal riffs blended with awesome melodics. Oh yeah! Thats my favorite! This is kind of a title that tells you this band with the right direction that breaks some charts. “Serenity” is falling into more conventional genres, even sounding like metal core. “Depths” brings us back to calmer tracks, a nice one, something similar to the chords of Alissa or Vicky style encountered in “The Agonist”. “Distant Lights” brings on the melodic power metal. Nice but nothing that impressed me. “Burn”, brings on back this “Dimmu Borgir” feels with a good spoon of power metal, sending again into a rollercoaster ride from Hell.  “Ashes” brings on this what I call “anime metal”. Dont ask me why, but this is the kind of metal that would match very well with a opening sequence of an anime. Nice! “Reflections” brings back the orchestral sounding like a ending sequence.
The overall album is good, pretty good. But it kind of misses the overall excitement that some other albums have sparked in the previous months. Maybe it is this mix of different styles and some questionable tracks. Sometimes, lesser is better.
However, this album is a great showcase of Adrienne’s vocal range and ability to sing both in clean and growls. The band also have shown its comfort in playing in different styles with ease. But lets be honest, Seven Spires enters a market highly competitive, especially if they think to take the Symphonic metal direction. Right now, melodic death and power metal are very good niches for entering FFMs. Really, their black symphonic metal composition of “The Paradox” and “Burn” really felt taking a rollercoaster from Hell, giving the thrills and chills of an adrenaline rush only to kick in the endorphins at the end of the ride, sending you in this musical euphoria.

[Metal/Melodic Death] Exalt The Throne Last Show @ Dallas, TX (O’Rileys Bar – 07/29/2017)

We are born, we live and we die. Some people call it the circle of life. I don’t, i prefer the allusion of the thread of life metaphorized by the Ancient Greek through as the Moirai (or Fates) Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. We exist as a thread with our beginning and our end. We cease to exist with the continuum but we remains as part of the fabric (history).
Same applies for our intellectual endeavors, scientific and artistic alike.
I have seen bands being born bringing the joy and the excitement with their innocence and novelty. I have bands that have been following me through my life, becoming a sort of travel companions through my own journey. Sadly, I also have seen bands giving their last breath and close their eyes.
The announcement of a band going into hiatus or disbanding is always a sad news to hear because you know that you will not experience anymore that auditory and visual stimuli that made them listen and like their work, over and over.
One of the band that lately gave their final curtain, their “barroud d’honneur” was Exalt The Throne (Dallas, TX). I discovered the band very recently as their supported Epica second leg North American Tour following the release of “The Quantum Enigma”. It was love at first sight because of this very interesting blend of melodic death (with high-paced guitars of Charles, Tim and Kanyon and drums) with symphonic metal (clean female vocals performed by Courtney). It was neither the former nor the latter. It was its own blend that made them unique. When the band announced their final show a month ago, it was unexpected and a very sad moment to experience.
However, I decided to drive all the way to attend their final show and have a chance to collect a last souvenir from the band. The gig was short but oh boy you could feel how the band matured over the last 18 months, refining their performance.  The band played three of their songs present in their album “Long Live the King” (“Long Live The King”; “Perpetual Agony” and “Rampant Idolatry”) and one cover from Amon Amarth (I ain’t fan of folk metal but if someone can help identify the song, I would be more than happy to update this post).

If I have to find a silver lining into this final show, I would definitely cite the first law of thermodynamics that stipulates “energy is not created nor destroyed in a closed system, it is only transformed and transferred”. Same applies to the artistic energy. It is only transformed and transferred. I wish to the band members all the best and success in their endeavors and in their personal and professional careers. The king is dead! Long live the king!

 

[Metal] Joyeuses fete du 14 Juillet, ma liste des groupes de metal Français

Since today is the French National Holiday, I wrote down the rest of this post in my native language…..that is French! Nom de Dieu!
A l’occasion de la fete de la prise de la Bastille, qui eu lieu en ce jour, j’en profite pour mettre en avant les groupes de metal français qui peuplent ma discotheque. Si vous ne trouvez point chaussure a votre taille, il y a certainement deux raisons: soit sous êtes passe en dehors de mon collimateur, soit ne j’ai point eu un effet boeuf.
Sans trainer plus, ma liste de groupes de metal français:
Adrana (Tours, France): du metal opera avec Anne derriere la voix mezzo-soprano. Du très bon calibre.
Alkemy (Genève, Suisse): un petit groupe metal sympathique venant de nos cousins Helvetes qui font pas mal de covers, avec Katia et Jess. A découvrir.
Alwaid (Lille, France): Les chti’mis connaissent leur metal et savent l’art du raffinement. Deux albums: deux styles de metal different (le premier était dans le genre atmosphérique, le deuxième bien plus power metal) mais la meme solution détonante.
Arcadia (Mulhouse, France): Une petite pousse de l’Alsace Bossue qui avait un EP assez sympa sorti l’automne dernier.
Asylum Pyre (Paris, France): Un tres bon groupe de prog/power metal de la region IDF. Surtout de plus que Oxy Heart a récemment joint le groupe.
Au Champ des Morts (Clermont-Ferrand, France): Une découverte Bandcamp de cette année avec leur premier album intitule “Dans La Joie”. Je suis pas un fan de black metal, mais il dire que ce groupe nous fourni un sacré “sweet crude” produit raffine, surtout que c’est un des quelques bandes qui chantent en Français (ca vaut le petit coup de pouce supplémentaire). A découvrir.
Azylya (Bruxelles, Belgique): Un sacre bon groupe de gothic metal venant de nos voisins belges, avec Jamie-Lee Smit au vocal.
Blazing War Machine (Marseilles, France): Si tu cherches un groupe de metal surfant dans le black melodic a la Dimmu Borgir/power metal avec une voix feminine en premiere line, voila un groupe a découvrir. Effet cathartique assure.
Bloody Melody (Tours, France): Un petit groupe de gothic metal, alternative qui avait un son bien sympa avec leur EP. Je me demande ce que mijote dans leur marmite? Ca va faire une peu plus de deux ans et pas trop entendu de nouvelles de leur part.
Dreamslave (Lyon, France): Du power metal a la Francaise, avec memes des pépites de pirate metal. A essayer.
Ethernity (Bruxelles, Belgique): Du prog metal en provenance de Belgique, un premier album vraiment sympa.
Erzebeth/ex-Darkonelly (Dijon, France): Marion a cloture son project Darkonelly et a decide de larguer les amarres vers d’autres horizons avec son nouveau projet “Erzebeth”. Si vous êtes dans l’ambience médiévales, elle tourne actuellement avec Tony tels des troubadours quelques festivaux pour animer de sa voix suave les longues nuit d’été. En parallèle, Marion a lance son projet solo sous le nom de Marion Lamita avec deux videos en ligne: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAk0Zb9lkG4 et https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gViPbhKuajI
FT-17 (Nantes, France):  Les suédois ont Sabaton, nous on a FT-17. De plus, feru de la “Der des Ders” que je suis, aux anges de la mort fut-ce. Decouvert lors de la récente campagne Bandcamp. Du très bon calibre, avec des interludes de lettres d’un poilu décrivant les quatre années de la premiere guerre mondiale.
Heonia (Lille, France): Un autre groupe des corons. Aggressif, bimodal. A essayer!
Inhepsie (Paris, France): Un autre groupe de gothic metal chantant dans la langue de Molière.
Lethian Dreams (Paris, France): La littérature française a contribue de manière importante a la vague “romantique” du XIXe siècle, qui naturellement servi de source pour le mouvement goth et bien entendu pour le doom metal. Lethian Dreams connait son doom metal et nous en démontre sa maitrise avec trois excellent albums.
Midnight Sorrow (Strasbourg, France): Yay, un groupe de metal Strasbourgeois, symphonique de plus. De quoi être un peu chauvin, surtout que leur premier album “Pick A Tale” sorti ce printemps était un très bon robuste premier album. A essayer de toute urgence!
Pray Manticore (Toulouse, France): Un groupe de death metal de la ville rose.
Pyrah (Strasbourg, France): Un autre groupe de Strasbourg, cette fois de prog metal.
Seyminhol (Metz, France): Un groupe de power metal, si vous aimez Kamelot et chercher un equivalent Français.
Veil of Mist (Reims, France): Un groupe de metal bien sympa, a découvrir.
Whyzdom (Paris, France): La creme de la creme du symphonic metal Francais. Avec Vynce Leff derriere l’instrumentation et Marie McLeod au vocal, on a un melange detonant de baroque, d’orchestration et de rugeur de metal.